A Troubled Youth
Mark David Chapman was born May 10, 1955, near Fort Worth, Tex., the first child of David and Diane Chapman. His father was a staff sergeant in the Air Force, his mother a nurse.
Shortly after Mark's birth, his father was discharged and enrolled at Purdue University, where he used the GI Bill to get a degree in engineering. He moved to Decatur, Ga., an Atlanta suburb, and took a job in the credit department of American Oil Co. When Mark was seven, his sister Susan was born.
His childhood, as he described it to psychiatrists, was unhappy. He was the kind of boy other kids picked on. He was not a good athlete. Other boys called him "Pussy."
He fell back on imaginary friends. He told Jack Jones, his biographer: "I used to fantasize that I was a king, and I had all these Little People around me and that they lived in the walls. And that I was their hero and was in the paper every day and I was on TV every day, their TV, and that I was important. They all kind of worshipped me, you know. It was like I could do no wrong."
When he wanted to entertain his subjects, he would give concerts for them, playing records. His favorite, and theirs, was the Beatles.
He wasn't always in a good mood: "And sometimes when I'd get mad I'd blow some of them up. I'd have this push-button thing, part of the [sofa], and I’d like get mad and blow out part of the wall and a lot of them would die. But the people would still forgive me for that, and, you know, everything got back to normal. That’s a fantasy I had for many years.”
Adults considered him a normal boy. His IQ was 121, well above average. He had the interests of other boys his age rockets, UFOs and, of course, the Beatles, whose records he played endlessly. He looked forward to the annual showing of “The Wizard of Oz” on TV.
But inwardly, he told psychiatrists, he lived in dread of his father, who he said beat his mother. He told Gaines, “I’d wake up hearing my mother screaming my name, and it just scared the fire out of me, and I’d run in there and make him go away. Sometimes I think I actually pushed him away.” He fantasized about getting a gun and blowing his father away.
He told psychologist Lee Salk his father never gave him the love or emotional support he needed: “I don’t think I ever hugged my father. He never told me he loved me. And he never said he was sorry one of those guys.”
Mark Chapman as a young man
This wasn’t the impression others had. They noted David Chapman was a Boy Scout leader. He taught guitar at the YMCA and taught his son to play. “I’d say it was a very happy family,” YMCA director Adams told reporters. “And Mark was a happy, well-adjusted boy.”
Even Diane Chapman stood up for her husband, though she admitted he sometimes hit her. She told Gaines that a neighbor commented about the time David spent playing in the yard with Mark. “The fact is that Dave kept a darn good roof over our heads for all those years, and I would say he was a better parent to Mark than I was,” she said. “It was true Dave didn’t show his emotions, but he’d do anything for Mark.”
When he was 14 and a freshman at Columbia High School in Decatur, Mark suddenly changed. He started using marijuana and heroin, let his hair grow, defied his parents, skipped school and stayed out late at night with his new drug-using friends. Once he was picked up by police while freaked out on LSD.
When his mother locked him in his room, he took the door off its hinges and walked out, spending the next week at a friend’s house. Later he ran off to Miami for two weeks, living on the street until a man who had taken him in bought him a bus ticket back to Decatur.
His rebel period ended as suddenly as it had started. When he was 16, a California evangelist came to town. Mark went to one of his meetings and had a moving religious experience.
His friend Newton Hendrix couldn’t believe the change. The old Mark had “long hair, old army jackets, green draft coat and stuff like that. Now he was a lot calmer, softer spoken, his hair was short. He was still wearing the large coat and some of that stuff but now he always wore a large wooden cross around his neck.”
Soon Mark was passing out religious tracts. He found his first girlfriend, another born-again Christian named Jessica Blankenship. His schoolwork improved. And he devoted himself to the South De Kalb County YMCA. He was a counselor at the Y’s summer camp.
“Mark was a Pied Piper with the kids,” Adams would say eight years later. Adams remembered Mark as “a guy down on one knee helping out a little kid or with kids just hanging around his neck and following him everywhere he went.”
The kids called him “Nemo,” apparently after the Jules Verne character. When Chapman was presented with the award for outstanding counselor in the camp, the kids were on their feet, chanting “Ne-mo, Ne-mo, Ne-mo!”
Two other events influenced the born-again Mark. When John Lennon was quoted as saying, “We’re more popular than Jesus Christ now,” he turned violently against his one-time hero. Chapman and his Christian friends sang Lennon’s “Imagine” with new lyrics: “Imagine John Lennon is dead.” Chapman adopted Todd Rundgren as his new musical hero.
Also, his friend Michael McFarland recommended a book to him: J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye. It’s the story of a mixed-up teenager who, distraught at his discovery that the world seems to be made up of phonies, runs away to wander around New York.
The confused youth dreams of a different world, one where he could fit in:
Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around nobody big, I mean except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff I mean, if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye.
Mark Chapman had met Holden Caulfield.
Or was it the other way around?
Escape to Paradise
After graduating from Columbia High, Chapman and McFarland moved for a time to Chicago. They put together a comedy act that played in churches and Christian nightspots; Chapman played guitar and McFarland did impersonations.
They soon abandoned their show business ambitions. Back in Georgia, Chapman did odd jobs at the YMCA. In the fall, he enrolled part-time at South De Kalb Community College, hoping eventually to get a degree that would qualify him for a career with the Y. His hopes were lifted when he was one of the applicants selected to spend a summer with the Y's international program.
He was sent to Lebanon, but was quickly caught up in the civil war there. The Y staffers were evacuated, and Chapman was offered an alternative assignment working with Vietnamese refugees in a resettlement camp at Fort Chaffee, Ark.
He quickly became as big a hero to the Vietnamese children as he had been at YMCA summer camps. He was named an area coordinator and a key aide to David Moore, the program director. In 1980 Moore would tell reporters: "He was really caring with the refugees and he worked his tail off to do everything exactly right. He was a super kid."
But the resettlement program was a short-term one that soon ended. In a 1981 story in New York magazine, Craig Unger relates a conversation on its last day as recalled by one of his co-workers:
"We're all going to get together again," Rod Riemersma remembered Chapman saying. "One day one of us is going to be somebody. About five years from now, one of us will do something famous, and it will bring us all together."
Unger adds: "It was December 1975."
Jessica Blankenship had visited Mark at Fort Chaffee and the two talked of marriage. In the spring he joined her as a student at Covenant College, a strict Presbyterian college in Lookout Mountain, Tenn. They studied together every night.
But Chapman found himself falling further and further behind in his studies. He was also obsessed with guilt that he had let himself be seduced by a female camp worker at a motel near Fort Chaffee a sin he couldn't bring himself to confess to the chaste Jessica. His depression grew.
He would later tell Jones that this was the beginning of the suicidal thoughts that would plague him over the next four years. Once he had been a success with the YMCA, he had been chosen for an overseas assignment, he had been an area coordinator for the Vietnamese program. Now he was a failure. He was a nobody.
"And when I had to face that fact, my insides fell in on myself," he told Jones. "I fell down a dark hole."
He dropped out of Covenant College at the end of the semester. Jessica broke off their engagement.
He returned to Decatur and was assistant director of the summer camp again, but quit within a month after an argument with the swimming director. At the suggestion of his friend Dana Reeves, he became a security guard. He was offered a promotion, but turned it down because he feared the responsibility. He became more and more irritable.
At first he was unarmed on the job, but he took a week-long course that qualified him as an armed guard; he scored 80 on the pistol range, well above the passing grade of 60.
Meanwhile, he came across a map of Hawaii in a library. He pored over it, dreaming of himself in an island paradise.
In January 1977, Chapman boarded a plane to Honolulu. He would use his savings -- $1,200 -- for a one-way airline ticket and a final splurge in paradise.
Then he would kill himself.
A Miracle Fades Away
For five days, Mark David Chapman lived the life of a wealthy tourist. He checked into the Moana Hotel, drank mai tais at its bar, sunned himself on the beaches and cruised the islands.
Life in paradise was good too good to end so soon. He moved to a cheap room at the YMCA to make his money last. And he got to thinking about home.
He called Jessica, his ex-fiancee. He told her he had planned his death but had regained his desire to live. He pleaded with her to tell him she still loved him and he should come home. Jessica, fearing she would be responsible for his suicide, told him, "Just come home."
He bought another one-way ticket (going to Atlanta), only to discover Jessica had acted out of pity. He got into an argument with his parents and moved briefly to a hotel. Then he used the last of his savings for his third one-way ticket (going to Hawaii again). It was May 1977.
Drinking heavily, he lived at the Y when he had money from some low-paying job. Otherwise, he lived on the streets. The euphoria he had felt on his first visit gave way to hopelessness. He spent hours on the phone with suicide hot lines.
Finally, with the last of his money, he bought a dinner of steak and beer, rented a car and bought a vacuum cleaner hose. He drove to a deserted beach. There he shoved one end of the hose into the car's tailpipe, put the other end in the car and closed the windows. With the motor running, he closed his eyes and slipped into unconsciousness.
He awoke, groggy but, amazingly, alive. A Japanese fisherman was tapping on the window to make sure he was all right. He found that the plastic vacuum cleaner hose had melted in the exhaust pipe.
He told Jones that when he turned, the fisherman was gone. He was, Chapman marveled, an angel sent by God. He prayed fervently for the grace to take advantage of the new chance God had given him.
When a nearby mental health clinic opened the next morning, Chapman was there. A psychiatrist listened to his story and drove him to Castle Memorial Hospital, where he was admitted under suicide watch.
Within a week, his depression lifted and he was playing his guitar and singing to other patients. In another week, the hospital discharged him after finding him a job in a nearby gas station.
In his free time, he volunteered at the hospital. His therapists, pleased at his recovery and his touch with patients, hired him for a maintenance job.
His supervisor, Leilani Siegfried, would later tell reporters, "He was delightful to work with. He tried to please us so. And he was so sympathetic to the old people. He would play them Hawaiian songs on his guitar and pay attention to them when nobody else would. Some of them hadn't spoken to anybody in years, but they started again when Mark showed them some attention."
He socialized with the doctors and nurses, who treated him as a colleague. He found a place to live with a Presbyterian minister. By the spring of 1978 he could once more look at himself as a success, not a failure.
As he had once dreamed of Hawaii, he now dreamed of visiting the Far East. He found he could borrow from the hospital credit union and get a six-week leave of absence. And he began conferring with a travel agent, a Japanese-American woman named Gloria Abe.
Chapman's plans grew, and so did the relationship. In July, Gloria saw him off for what had become a round-the-world trip. Using his YMCA connections to get cheap or free lodging, he visited Japan, Korea and China, which had just opened its borders to Westerners. He went to Thailand, India, Iran, Israel and then to Geneva, Switzerland, where he stayed with his old YMCA boss David Moore. His last stop was in Atlanta, to see his parents and old friends.
Gloria Abe was waiting for him on his return to Honolulu. Soon the two were spending most of their free time together. At Mark's urging, she converted to Christianity from Buddhism.
In January 1979 they were walking along the beach when Mark stopped to write in the sand. Gloria read the words "Will you marry me?" She wrote "Yes!!!" It was, she said later, "the best day of my life, even better than the wedding. He carried me piggyback down the beach, and we were just so happy."
The wedding was June 2. A few months later, eager to make more money, Mark took a job at Castle Memorial as a printer. Now he worked alone, rather than mingling with staff and patients. His bad temper returned. He got into an argument with Gloria's boss at the travel agency and made her quit and find another job. He was fired by the hospital. Rehired, he got into a shouting match with a nurse and quit.
He took a job as a night security guard at a luxury apartment building and began drinking heavily again. He developed the first of a series of obsessions, this one for art. He bought a painting by Salvador Dali for $2,500, then returned it and bought a Norman Rockwell for $7,500, part of it borrowed from his mother.
On March 13, 1980 he entered the date on his apartment calendar he launched a new obsession: to get out of debt. He scrimped and saved, and made Gloria scrimp and save.
And he spent hours going over his plans with advisers advisers from the past.
The Little People had returned.
To the Brink and Back
By Aug. 15 Mark and Gloria had reached their goal. They were out of debt. But still Mark felt unbearable pressure, pressure he couldn't define.
Now his obsessions changed even more rapidly. He got rid of his records, then scoured record stores to replace them, then sold his new collection. He bought new speakers for his stereo, then broke his turntable and smashed it to pieces. After watching the movie "Network," he got rid of his TV set.
He made loyal Gloria's life miserable. "The only place you could go for privacy was the bathroom," she told Gaines, "and so often at night I'd go in there and lock the door and just cry."
He bought two copies of The Catcher in the Rye and made Gloria read one. He talked of changing his name to Holden Caulfield and even wrote the Hawaii attorney general to ask about the procedure.
On Sept. 20, he wrote a letter to a friend, Lynda Irish, in New Mexico. On it he drew a picture of Diamond Head with the sun, moon and stars above it.
"I'm going nuts," he wrote.
He signed it "The Catcher in the Rye."
He brought home books from the library on one subject after another. One of them was John Lennon: One Day at a Time by Anthony Fawcett. In it he read about Lennon's life in New York. He was furious.
"He was angry that Lennon would preach love and peace but yet have millions," Gloria told Gaines. He began to talk of going to New York.
And he began, he would tell Gaines in prison, to pray to Satan. "There were no candles, no incantations," Gaines writes. "Just Mark, sitting naked, rocking back and forth at the controls of his stereo and tape recorder, splicing together his reasons for killing John Lennon from the lyrics of Beatles songs, the soundtrack of "The Wizard of Oz", and quotations from The Catcher in the Rye.
Yoko Ono and John Lennon in bed in 1969
He told his Little People he intended to go to New York and kill John Lennon. They begged him not to. They said, he told Jack Jones, "Please, think of your wife. Please, Mr. President. Think of your mother. Think of yourself."
He replied his mind was made up. Their reaction was silence, Jones writes. Then, "One by one, beginning with his defense minister, the Little People rose from their seats and walked from the secret chamber inside the mysterious mind of Mark David Chapman."
On Oct. 20 Chapman read in the Honolulu Star Bulletin about Lennon's return to recording after a five-year hiatus. Lennon and his wife, the artist Yoko Ono, had cut an album called "Double Fantasy."
On Oct. 23 he quit his security job and signed out for the last time. Instead of the usual "Chappy," he wrote "John Lennon." Then he crossed it out.
On Oct. 27 Chapman went to a Honolulu gun store and, for $169, bought a five-shot, short-barrel .38-caliber Charter Arms Special. Ironically, the salesman was named Ono.
On Oct. 30, wearing a new suit and topcoat, the revolver in his suitcase, he boarded a plane for New York.
He had several thousand dollars with him, what was left of a $5,000 loan from his father-in-law. As with his first visit to Hawaii, Chapman had decided to live it up a little before carrying out his plan. He checked in at the Waldorf and treated himself to a dinner of filet mignon and Heineken beer at its restaurant.
John and Yoko in August 1980
He knew that John Lennon lived in the Dakota, a celebrity-filled apartment hotel across from Central Park at West 72nd St. He spent that day walking around it and studying it, looking for the Lennons' sixth-floor windows. He struck up a conversation with the doorman, getting the standard statement that he didn't know if the Lennons were in town.
He also tried to buy the .38 bullets he hadn't bothered to buy in Honolulu. He found to his chagrin that New York's Sullivan Law forbade their sale.
He called Dana Reeves, now a sheriff's deputy in Georgia, and said he wanted to visit his old friends; Reeves invited him to stay at Reeves' apartment. Chapman flew to Atlanta.
While there, he told Reeves he had bought a gun for personal protection while he was in New York but he needed some bullets "with real stopping power." Reeves supplied him with five hollow-point cartridges the kind that expand as they pass through their target.
On Nov. 10 he was back in New York. The next night he decided to take in a movie -- "Ordinary People," in which Timothy Hutton plays a suicidal youth trying to come to terms with his dysfunctional family. When the movie ended, he immediately made a phone call.
In a Jack Jones recording played on the "Mugshots" show, he describes that call:
The experience in that theater, somehow when I called my wife, I had defeated, I had capped that volcano. And I called Hawaii and I said, "I'm coming home, I won a great victory. Your love has saved me."
It was like a snapback to reality. I realized that I had a wife and she loves me. I told her I was going to kill someone and I whispered -- I remember whispering it in the phone -- "John Lennon. I was going to kill John Lennon." She said, "Come back," and that's when I came back."
Is That All You Want?
Chapman's demons were gone, but only briefly. Back home, they were soon tormenting him again.
He started making threatening phone calls and bomb threats. He spent his days harassing a group of Hare Krishnas who daily appeared in downtown Honolulu.
He told an alarmed Gloria he was going back to New York but only for a few weeks, to try to find a new career.
He arrived on Saturday, Dec. 6. He told a credulous cab driver who took him into the city that he was a recording engineer who had just come from a secret session of Lennon and Paul McCartney: They were recording together for the first time since the Beatles split up.
He checked into a $16.50-a-night room at the YMCA on 63rd Street just off Central Park West; this time there was no splurge at the Waldorf. He walked the nine blocks to the Dakota. While waiting on the sidewalk there he struck up a conversation with two women, Jude Stein and Jerry Moll. They told him Lennon knew them by sight and sometimes stopped to chat with them.
When they left, Chapman offered to buy them dinner if they came back later. Meanwhile he waited, a brand new copy of "Double Fantasy" under his arm. At 5 p.m., he gave up the vigil and returned to his hotel. Ironically, the women arrived 15 minutes later, in time to see Lennon and talk with him.
Back at the Y, Chapman was disturbed by the sound of the men in the next room, who obviously were having gay sex. Outraged, he thought of barging in on them with his revolver. He decided to save his ammunition.
However, he checked out of the Y in the morning and moved to the Sheraton Centre at Seventh Avenue and 52nd Street.
It was Sunday, Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day.
He spent three hours waiting outside the Dakota, then, growing hungry, took a taxi back to the Sheraton. On the way, it occurred to him that he hadn't brought a copy of The Catcher in the Rye to New York. In a nearby bookstore, a poster of Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion caught his eye. He bought it.
And on the newsstand he spotted the face of John Lennon! The December Playboy Magazine carried an interview with John and Yoko, their first in five years. Forgetting The Catcher in the Rye for the moment, he bought the magazine and read the interview over his dinner.
The Playboy centerfold reminded him of something that Holden Caulfield had done on his odyssey in New York. Chapman called an "escort service," but when the call girl arrived he told her he merely wanted to talk just as Holden had done. He paid her $190 when she left at 3 a.m.
On about 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 8, Chapman awakened in his room at the Sheraton. Something told him this was the day.
He dressed. Then, on his dresser, he constructed a tableau. He carefully laid out a Todd Rundgren audiotape. He took out the hotel Bible, opened it to the beginning of "The Gospel of John" and wrote in the word "Lennon" after "John." He placed on the dresser a letter praising his efforts at the refugee camp, along with photos of him with Vietnamese children. Behind them was the poster of Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion.
He picked up the "Double Fantasy" album and one more item: the pistol, with cardboard over it to conceal the outline in his pocket.
On his way to the Dakota, he made a stop to buy the copy of The Catcher in the Rye he had forgotten the previous night. He also bought a ballpoint pen, and on the inside cover he wrote " This is my statement." He signed it "Holden Caulfield."
Outside the Dakota, he chatted with the doorman, Patrick O'Loughlin. Then, leaning against a railing, he started to read The Catcher. Engrossed, he missed seeing Lennon get out of a taxi and walk into the building.
Chagrined, he resumed his vigil. Paul Goresh, an amateur photographer who often staked out the Lennons and whom Chapman had seen there on Saturday, joined him. Then Jude Stein appeared again. She told him that she and her friend Jerry had held a conversation with Lennon on Saturday after Chapman left.
Chapman offered to buy her lunch. Afterwards, they returned to the Dakota. Five-year-old Sean Lennon came out with his nanny. Jude introduced Chapman to him and Chapman shook hands with the boy.
Chapman would tell Gaines: "He was the cutest little boy I ever saw. It didn't enter my mind that I was going to kill this poor young boy's father and he won't have a father for the rest of his life. I mean, I love children. I'm the Catcher in the Rye."
Chapman recalled seeing Gilda Radner, Lauren Bacall, Paul Simon and Mia Farrow coming or going. But not Lennon.
He chatted with Goresh and with doorman Jose Perdomo, whom he remembered from his visit in November. He showed him the album he had brought for Lennon to autograph.
While they were talking, Chapman heard a familiar voice. He turned. John Lennon and Yoko Ono were emerging from the building with a gaggle of staff members.
He was dumbstruck. Goresh had to push him to approach Lennon. Speechless, he held out the album and the pen. Lennon smiled, took them and wrote "John Lennon, December 1980."
On the "Mugshots" show, Chapman's recorded voice tells the story. He is describing an event that happened 10 years before, but there is still awe in his voice.
He said "Sure" and wrote his name, and when he handed it back to me he looked at me and kind of nodded his head, "Is that all you want?"
Like just like that, like an inquiry into a different matter, and I said, "Yeah." I said, "Thanks, John."
And he again said, "Is that all you want?" and there was Yoko, she was already in the car, the limo, the door was open and it was running, it was out in the middle of the street and he asked me twice, and I said, "Yeah, thanks, that's all," or something like that. He got into the car and drove away.
Chapman stood amazed, the album in his hands, the gun still in his pocket. He told Goresh, "They're never going to believe this back in Hawaii." He offered the photographer $50 if he had gotten a picture of him with Lennon and could bring it back the next day.
Later, he would tell Gaines: "I was just overwhelmed by his sincerity. I had expected a brushoff, but it was just the opposite. I was on Cloud Nine. And there was a little bit of me going, 'Why didn't you shoot him?' And I said, `I can't shoot him like this.' I wanted to get the autograph."
And for the first time in a while, he prayed to God, for the grace to just take his record and go home.
Do It, Do It, Do It!
Mark Chapman was torn, he would later say, between the adult and the child inside him. The child won. He stayed at the Dakota.
At 8 p.m., Goresh announced he was going back to his home in New Jersey: It was obvious the Lennons had gone back to the Record Plant, their recording studio, and might not be back until after midnight.
Chapman pleaded for him to stay. "I'd wait," he said. "You never know if you'll see him again."
Goresh didn't catch the hint. Chapman was left with doorman Jose Perdomo to talk to.
And two others.
He told Gaines: "I remember I was praying to God [to keep me from killing Lennon] and I was also praying to the devil to give me the opportunity. ‘Cause I knew I would not have the strength on my own.”
At 10:50 p.m. a white limousine pulled around the corner and stopped at the curb. Yoko Ono got out first. Lennon started to follow her into the building.
In a statement recorded by police hours later, Chapman declared, “He walked past me, and then a voice in my head said, ‘Do it, do it, do it,’ over and over again, saying `Do it, do it, do it, do it,’ like that.”
He called out, “Mr. Lennon!”
Lennon turned to see Chapman, crouching combat style with both hands on the pistol.
Chapman’s statement continues: “I pulled the gun out of my pocket, I handed over to my left hand, I don’t remember aiming, I must have done it, but I don’t remember drawing the bead or whatever you call it. And I just pulled the trigger steady five times.”
Lennon turned to escape, but four of the five bullets tore into him. To Chapman’s amazement, he did not fall but managed to run up six steps into the concierge’s station. He said “I’m shot,” then fell face down.
There was a subway entrance across the street, but Chapman made no effort to flee.
Perdomo turned to him: “Do you know what you done? Do you know what you done!” He knocked the gun from Chapman’s hand and kicked it away.
Chapman took off his hat and coat and threw them on the sidewalk. He knew the police were coming and wanted them to see he wasn’t hiding a gun. He took The Catcher in the Rye out of his pocket and tried to read it as he paced the sidewalk and waited.
A police car roared up to the Dakota and two uniformed police jumped out. One ran inside. Perdomo pointed out Chapman to the other.
Chapman put his hands in the air. “Don’t hurt me,” he pleaded. “I’m unarmed.”
“I acted alone,” he said as the officer spread-eagled him against the wall and searched him.
The police cuffed him and put him in the back seat of their car.
“I’m sorry I gave you guys all this trouble,” he kept telling them.
Requiem For an Era
At the morgue, the entrance was sealed shut with a lock and chain. Attendants in green mortuary masks moved around in dumb show, their words inaudible, or typed on forms on grim civil-service typewriters. Behind them, in a refrigerator, lay the sixties.
-- Pete Hamill, New York Magazine
An Englishman named Guy Louthan was in an apartment across the street from the Dakota. About midnight, an hour after the shooting, he went to the window.
"It raised the hackles on the back of my neck," he recalled. "First I heard this noise, then I looked toward the park and there were people streaming across the park and then I looked to the other side of 72nd Street, and there were from both sides these two waves of people converging on the Dakota
"They literally swept up the road and out of the park and, as the leading people neared the Dakota, people behind were catching up with them so it was this sort of surge, a vast mass of people running alongside, moving in among the cars. And then when they all got to the Dakota, they just stood and sang or chanted. Some of them had candles. I just had to go down and find out what had happened."
Another crowd gathered outside Roosevelt General Hospital, some on their knees in prayer. At the request of Yoko Ono, doctors there delayed the formal announcement of his death; she did not want Sean to hear it on the radio before she got back home.
By 1 a.m. the New York Times estimated the crowd outside the Dakota at 1,000. They included young parents who had brought their children. Some were singing "All My Loving." Much of the crowd joined in for the last line, "And I'll send all my loving to you." Many were in tears.
Others sang or chanted "Give Peace a Chance," a Lennon's song that had become the anthem of the peace movement.
Up on the sixth floor of the Dakota, a detective was gently questioning Yoko. Lennon staffer Fred Seaman would later write, "The plaintive sounds of those singing John's songs could be heard drifting up from the street."
At 4 a.m., Seaman went out on a balcony. There were still a thousand people on the street, singing Beatles music, drinking beer and smoking pot. He went down and tried to spread the word that Yoko was trying to sleep. "There was a brief interlude in which the fans kept up a nearly silent vigil, playing their radios softly, holding their lighted candles, passing joints and drinking beer in the chill air. But as soon as the sun began coming up, the chanting resumed as more people gathered on the street."
The news spread around the world with electronic speed. Hundreds gathered for a silent tribute at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. A crowd of 2,000 joined in a candlelight tribute at Century City in Los Angeles. In the next few days, a teen-age girl in Florida and a man of 30 in Utah killed themselves, leaving notes telling of depression over Lennon's death.
Nothing had moved Americans so much since the death of John F. Kennedy. As with Kennedy's assassination, people shared stories of what they were doing when they heard the news.
Yoko Ono asked Lennon's fans to "pray for John's soul" by observing 10 minutes of silence at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14. Radio stations from Luxembourg to Omaha announced they would go off the air for that period.
At 6 a.m. Sunday which was 2 p.m. in London several thousand people gathered in the city square of Melbourne, Australia, to watch a video of a Beatles concert. More than 1,000 took part in Columbia, S.C., 3,000 in Seattle, 1,000 in Chicago, 1,200 at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. In Kenosha, Wis., 150 stood in 20-degree weather for the tribute.
In New York, the crowd in Central Park was estimated at 50,000 to 100,000. It included Mayor Edward Koch, who had called for the gathering and ordered flags on public buildings lowered to half-staff. The tribute was followed by a 30-minute concert of Beatles music. Many of the crowd then walked the short distance to stand outside the Dakota. Mailbags containing more than 4,500 telegrams of sympathy had already been hauled into the building.
The only sour note was in Liverpool, the Beatles' home town. A hundred people there were injured when fans swarmed onto a stage when a local band switched from Beatles music to its own composition.
All over the world people came, as Newsweek Magazine put it, "to share their grief and shock at the news. John Lennon, the cheeky and sardonic soul of the Beatles, whose music had touched a generation and enchanted the world, had been slain on his doorstep by a confused, suicidal young man who had apparently idolized him."
Another confused, suicidal young man was among those at the tribute in New York. Three weeks later, he confided his thoughts to a tape recorder.
"I just want to say goodbye to the old year, which was nothing total misery, total death," he said. "John Lennon is dead, the world is over, forget it.
"Anything I might do in 1981 would be solely for Jodie Foster's sake. Just tell the world in some way that I worship and idolize her.''
The world would hear of John Hinckley three months later.
Exorcism at AtticaChapman was charged with second-degree murder, the most serious charge in New York State for killing a non-law officer. Herbert Adlerberg, a lawyer with a reputation for defending unpopular clients, was assigned to represent Chapman.
He quickly withdrew. "I've handled many cases before, the Black Liberation Army case and the Harlem Six, but this is in a class by itself," he said. "I can't handle it. It was too much."
The threat of a lynching was almost too much for police. Windows in his room at Bellevue Hospital, where he was taken for psychiatric examination, were painted black in case there were snipers outside. Fearful for Chapman's life, police bundled him in two bulletproof jackets and made him duck down in the back of a van as phalanxes of police cars rushed him through streets to court appearances.
As Sunday approached, police feared that fans who gathered for the silent tribute in the park might decide to storm the hospital. They transferred him to the Rikers Island jail. A procession of psychiatrists came there to examine him.
He submitted to dozens of tests and freely told them of his anger toward his father, his identification with Holden Caulfield and with Dorothy in Oz even his conferences with the Little People. He also gave them a list of other celebrities he had thought about killing. He said that while in New York he had thought of leaping to his death from the Statue of Liberty.
The psychiatrists concluded that, while delusional, he was competent to stand trial.
Their diagnoses all differed, but six were prepared to testify for the defense that Chapman was psychotic. The prosecution had three who said his delusions were short of the definition of psychosis.
In January 1981, what Chapman believed was a brilliant idea occurred to him. He would use the trial to promote The Catcher in the Rye. He told psychologist Milton Kline, "Everybody's going to be reading this book with the help of the God-almighty media. They'll have to come out with a deluxe edition!"
He planned to sit reading the book during his trial and from time to time jump up and shout, "Read The Catcher in the Rye! Read The Catcher in the Rye!'" He eagerly autographed copies of the book that his guards brought to him.
Then, on June 8 two weeks before he was due to go to trial he called Jonathan Marks, his new lawyer. He said he suddenly realized that God wanted him to plead guilty.
Marks and the defense psychiatrists tried to talk him out of it. He was adamant. Marks asked Judge Dennis Edwards to have a panel re-examine him to determine if he was competent to make such a decision. The judge refused.
On June 22, with the press and public excluded, Edwards questioned Chapman about whether he understood the implications of his plea change. To each question, he answered, "Yes, your honor." He told the judge, "This is my decision and God's decision."
"And as I understand," the judge told him, "you say that you were there with the intent to cause the death of John Winston Ono Lennon and that you fired five shots from your pistol with the intent to cause the death of John Winston Ono Lennon?"
Chapman's replied: "Yes, your honor."
Impressed by Chapman's cool and collected manner, Edwards accepted the plea of guilty to second-degree murder.
On Aug. 24, in a packed courtroom, Edwards overruled Marks' last attempt to change the plea. Then he sentenced Chapman to a term of 20 years to life. He would not be eligible for parole until the turn of the millennium.
At Rikers Island, Chapman had gone through a violent spell. He destroyed his TV, ripped off his clothes, stopped up his toilet and when it overflowed threw water at the guards. It took six of them to drag him away.
Later, early in his stay in Attica, he had another. As he related it to Gaines, he felt the Holy Spirit come down and say there were demons inside him. "And I asked in Jesus' name [for them to come out]. My face was snarling and it came out my mouth, this thing, and it was gone. And I said, `I’m ready, God, let’s get ‘em all out, let’s go.’
“During that hour six came out. [They were] the most fierce and incredible things you ever saw or heard in your life hissing, gurgling noises and different voices right out of my mouth. The way I was acting cursing and things like this weren’t me, and when they came out I could sense these things coming out of my mouth, hissing and awful gurgling and grinding and I could feel that part of my personality was gone.
“Believe me, Jim, I wasn’t doing this. Something was happening to me.”
“I believed him,” Gaines writes.
In the year 2000, 20 years after Lennon’s death and 30 years after the breakup of the group, the Beatles sold more records than any other performer or group.
In 2001 John Lennon won a Grammy Award for the best long form video of 2000. It was for, “Gimme Truth: The Making of `Imagine,’” which was filmed by John and Yoko in 1971.
Fans at Lennon’s memorial in
In Attica Correctional Institution, Mark David Chapman is still a model prisoner, seemingly free of his delusions. Lower-profile criminals might have been released by now, but Chapman remains in solitary confinement for his own safety.
The 2004 parole hearing, his third, brought a flood of protests. Yoko Ono said Chapman still posed a threat to her and her family. One petition calling for him to live out his life in prison had 2,000 signatures.
On the Internet, many Beatles fans went further. A man from Rome, N.Y., wrote, “By no means whatsoever should this sick waste of oxygen and bone marrow be released from the crime he has committed. May he rot in jail and the fiery pits of hell forever.”
A New Yorker wrote, “If he is set free, something will happen to him. This is New York. ‘Accidents’ happen.” A woman wrote, “If Mark David Chapman is let out of jail, he wouldn’t last a day. There are too many people who want him dead.” A man identifying himself as “Kelsey” wrote, “I’ll kill him myself if he doesn’t stay in jail.”
Chapman told the Parole Board that he had committed the murder to gain attention, “to steal John Lennon’s fame. He said, “In some ways I’m a bigger nobody than I was before because, you know, people hate me.”
He did not ask for release, saying “I deserve nothing. Because of the pain and suffering I caused, I deserve exactly what I’ve gotten.”
Mark David Chapman, Prison